For nearly 30 years now, I’ve borne witness to batshitcrazy behavior in the legal industry. If I even remotely believed that using the words “batshitcrazy” and “legal industry” in the same sentence had the potential to offend attorneys, I’d strike them from my vocabulary. Alas, every attorney (judge, paralegal, legal assistant, law firm receptionist, law clerk…) I know is nodding his/her head in agreement because they’ve seen it as well.
Offers by attorneys in deposition rooms to “take it out in the hall” to lawyers dropping F-bombs on the record—language we were assured as court reporting students that we would never hear, therefore we didn’t need to practice those outlines—has led to prolific writing by serious legal scholars on the topic of civility in the legal profession. In fact, there’s a website known as abovethelaw.com that’s dedicated to the guffaws, blunders, and occasionally moronic behavior of members of the legal community. Oddly absent, a website dedicated to the batshitcrazy behavior of court reporters. Why? Because there’s just not enough material to start a website called courtreportersgonemad.com. Shocking, because reporters have a front-row seat to temporary insanity every day they’re on the job.
Well, today the Internet is abuzz with a story about one of my peers who has proven that none of us are immune to…LOSING IT. (Bless her heart!) The first email in my inbox this morning contained a link to a HuffPo article about an esteemed reporting colleague, a House reporter, who unfortunately ended up in the spotlight. As I read the brief article about “a shouting reporter [who] was removed from the House floor as lawmakers voted on a deal to reopen the government and avoid a debt crisis,” a chill ran down my spine.
Truth be told, every [honest] reporter felt the same chill. The chill I speak of translates into, “There but for the grace of God go I.” That’s because on any given day in a profession that is predicated on maintaining consistent standards of perfection in what are always less-than-perfect conditions, [overworked, sleep-deprived] reporters stifle laughter, tears, groans, and eye rolls as they make the verbatim record. In short, we reporters remain silent as we work tirelessly to capture the spoken word, all the while our brains are screaming, “Are ya kiddin’ me?” And we hope that what we’re thinking remains inside our noggins and never passes through our lips and reaches the ears of those around us!
But really, is it all that shocking that a House reporter suffering from overexposure to politicians during arguably the most heated floor debates in the modern history of our government—in fact, the most divisive time in this country’s political history—went over the deep end? The only thing I find shocking is that a House or Senate reporter didn’t lose their cool sooner, given the recent behavior of our law-makers. My point is, all of us in the high-stakes game of law and law-making run the risk, daily, of “losing it”!
By way of random example, a Cook County Circuit Court judge recently muttered, “We’ll take a lunch recess while these bozos figure out how to try a case,” as he abruptly left the bench. The only one who caught the offhanded comment was the court reporter, who, out of respect for the Court, cleansed the record. Why? Because there are times when what we reporters—indeed all of us in the legal arena—are exposed to is COMPLETELY MADDENING!
Mr. Speaker, I yield the remainder of my time, and tip my hat, to someone who is surely an overworked, yet highly skilled professional, who had a very human moment. Welcome to the club!